Tag Archives: problems

The Domestic & Something Else

Read from the bottom up:

twitter feedToday I brewed The Domestic for a second time. It is a Classic American Pilsner, also called a Pre-Prohibition Lager. The recipe is from Jamil Zainasheff’s book Brewing Classic Styles.

  • 12.5º Plato OG
  • 80% German Pilsner
  • 20% Flaked Maize
  • Rest at 148ºF for 60 minutes
  • Mash out to 160ºF
  • Collect 11.5 gllons
  • 2 oz 8.1% AA Perle FWH
  • 0.5 oz 3.8% AA Czech Saaz 30 mins
  • 1 oz 3.8% Czech Saaz 10 mins

I recently started doing a mash-out and this is my second brew session doing so. Combined with a slow sparge, I saw improved efficiency the first time. Today I ran into problems.

My mash tun is direct-fired and I recirculate the wort to prevent scorching. During vorlauf today my flow rate slowed to a trickle. Most of the time the March pump loses prime and I goose it a little to get it going again. When that didn’t work I stirred the grainbed and restarted the vorlauf. None of the usual tricks got the wort flowing again. But this was no ordinary problem.

That piece of hose pokes through the mash tun’s false bottom, acting as the pick-up. Heat from the burner melted it partially closed. Wort in the bottom of my tun scorched from lack of movement.

The sparge marched onward and I collected 11.5 gallons of sweet wort. I measured the gravity at 9.6º Plato, or 1.038. At that strength my post-boil gravity comes out to 1.043; 7 points too low. Reducing the volume to hit the gravity posed two problems. First, the style demands a light-colored beer and a prolonged boil would darken it too much. Secondly, the first hops were in the kettle and would throw off the bitterness balance. I cursed a little, tweeted then pushed on.

Ninety minutes later the brew was boiled then chilled and in the fermenter. When I lowered it into the converted chest freezer the bulges of the keg would not fit. Previously, I had tried to put the keg in the freezer with the same result, so I should have known. I grumbled a little.

It is now in my ale fermentation cooler, turned up to full blast cooling. When it comes time to lager this baby, I’ll split it into two carboys and put them in the freezer. Notice I hit my target starting gravity of 12.5º B.

After collecting the desired pre-boil volume I became curious how much wort I had left in the mash. Opening the spigot on the tun I dumped 6 liters of 9.6º B pale sweet wort into a bucket. With everything that went wrong today I was not about to waste so much potential beer.

Looking at my grain store, I picked an additional 2 lbs Crystal 60ºL and one ounce of chocolate malt. Approximating the recipe gives this:

  • 2 lbs German Pilsner
  • 2 lbs Crystal 60º L
  • 1 oz Chocolate

Post-boil volume would be less than a gallon

  • 0.3 oz 9.1% AA Centennial 60 mins
  • 0.5 oz 9.1% AA Centennial 15 mins
  • 0.5 oz 4.5% AA Fuggles 10 mins
  • 0.5 oz 4.5 %AA Fuggles 1 min

The final gravity turned out to be 25.2º P (1.107). It will probably be an Imperial Stout-ish. The yeast is a German ale/kölsh strain coming right out of an Altbier I put into lager tonight. Hope it can handle high gravity.

As an aside, I am quite fond of the brew-in-a-bag method those Aussies invented. Tonight’s second brew session was essentially that.

I Could Make Great Vinegar

The nettle beer came down with an acetobacter infection. This is not a surprise because fermentation conditions almost encouraged it. When I made the beer, I was out of carboys after making a Newcastle Brown ale clone. Under the circumstances I used a 5-gallon bucket. Normally these vessels can make great beer, however none of my buckets have lids. I improvised a “seal” with some plastic wrap. The beer was okay when I added dry hops to it a week after fermenting and I suspect opening the seal introduced the infection.

In the interest of Science I have a few ounces of the witch’s brew in my cup and take furtive sips to get a taste for how the beer may have turned out. My eyes are a little watery. It isn’t balsamic strength, still very much a vinegar. All the alcohol became acetic acid but there is a underlying malt taste and something else which I can only attribute to the nettles. Sandwiched between the initial vinegar sourness and the finishing vinegar bite is a vegetal-peppery note that reminds me of the brew day. Hop bitterness is non-existent and there is a softness to it that you don’t get when consuming straight vinegar, which I do on occasion.

It was an experiment that failed. The follow-up experiment will improve it. Things I will change:

  • A proper lauter – I strained my grains through a colander.
  • Closed fermentation.
  • Nettles at knockout instead of the boil.

Most teas are steeped and adding leaves to boiling water can bring out bad flavors. Doing a full boil, then adding the nettles after removing the flame will better simulate this.

Tripel Digits

On June 20th I made an approximation of a Belgian tripel.

Tripel Digits

5 US gallons
OG: 18% Brix
FG: 8.8% Brix
IBU: ~30


  • 14 lbs 2-row
  • 1 lbs cane sugar

60 minute rest at 152° F. 60 metric minute boil.


  • 1 oz 8.1% AA Perle pellets 60 minutes
  • 1 oz 4.6% AA Saaz pellets 10 minutes

By the time I was done sparging I had 9 gallons of sweet wort and only enough fermentables for 5 (as planned). To get to my target volume I boiled for three hours. Not much harm in that except the beer will be a good deal darker than it is supposed to be.

Came out of the fermenter today nice and clear. Going to be about 10.75% ABV, but you can’t really taste it. Tripels are like that. Another three weeks conditioning in the keg.

Kegged Evil Brown

On ITAFtHD I made a brown ale from AHS. Readers will know that I really messed that one up using RO water. I came out with 15 gallons when I expected only 10 – meaning that the beers were weak. Beer #2 was a slow starter, taking two days and some krasuen from beer #1 to get going. I kegged the beers today.

Number 2 was totally spoiled. Might get it through my head now to slow down the rate at which I pass the beer through the CFC. I suspect I pitched my starter into hot wort, killing the yeast. In the end, I came out with the same volume I was expecting (10 gallons) but the wrong strength. Evil Brown #1 ought to be ready for Thanksgiving when we have company over to celebrate.

Final Gravity: 5% brix.

I also ran out of the totally delicious Rye of the Hurricane today. Gonna make that one again. The beer came out with a great dry earthy bitterness from the rye malt and Mt Hood hops. It needed a little more body so I think I will increase the ratio of Munich to pale malts.